ICEDIP and creative process

Is there a common process to creativity?

Geoff Petty thinks so. ICEDIP is Petty’s six-phase model of the creative process.

It divides the creative process into six phases:

INSPIRATION, where you explore, generate ideas, have visions, research similar projects, brainstorm and dream.

CLARIFICATION, where you discuss your aims, focus on your goals, research costs and assess risks.

EVALUATION, where you assess which ideas have best potential, and how to improve your work as it moves forwards.

DISTILLATION – the process of concentrating or boiling your ideas down into a single vision.

INCUBATION, or not thinking about your idea! This phase is about letting go and allowing new connections to happen naturally. You may have the occasional ponder.

PERSPIRATION, the hard work phase where you actually put plans into action, with determination.

Petty recommends you need use the six phases in any order you wish.

Personally I find this neatly labels a process we have all been using within creative projects for many years. However it is interesting to note Petty includes incubation, the idea of not working on a project, as a beneficial phase. My best work has included this phase but I have sometimes left this out with projects on a tight timescales.

Petty reminds me not to do this. He is right. There are parts of the creative process that will always be a mystery. We do not truly know where ideas come from, for instance. Incubation allows this mystery to remain, without seeking to grasp at it for definition. And as the Zen saying goes, he who grasps loses.

Can we learn the value of doing nothing?

Reflecting on 2010

It’s December, it’s winter and the year is ending. A good time to reflect on 2010, what’s happened and what I hope for 2011.

I’m being aided by Reverb10, a worldwide network of people currently reflecting on 2010. The website is live for December only, and provides prompts for you to reflect upon. So thanks Reverb10, you’re inspired.

The word for 2010 for me was Change. Everything changed. My relationship, my home, my wishes for the future. I started to think more about community and how I could contribute to others, and not just what I could get for myself.

I have found myself within new communities, making new artistic friends and new spiritual friends. Both of these have enriched my life greatly, and nourished my soul. I am deeply grateful for all the people I have met or grown closer to in 2010. They have played a huge part in influencing my evolution. I even have to thank the online Twitter community… it is so wonderful to follow the word journeys of my heroes, or laugh at retweeted pithy comments, or see the world through my friends’ eyes.

Some of the changes in my life this year have been gradual. Some of the changes have been instant! The book Power Versus Force by Dr. David Hawkins caused my consciousness to lift itself overnight! Since reading his book, I am much more aware of vibrations in consciousness and able to make choices that appeal to my higher nature. An amazing book, and timely for me.

In 2010, I have gained more clarity on what I can commit to. I have given a lot of thought to the principles in my life: what I stand for, what I won’t compromise on, who I want to spend time around, what I want my influences to be… and these have helped me live a happier, more positive, more vibrant life. What would I like the word to be in 2011? Hmm… good question… can I come back to that after reflecting?

The moments I felt most alive in 2010 were by the sea. The first was getting flattened by the Atlantic ocean in Tenerife. Those waves will pound you to the ground like you ain’t nothing! Okay, so that day the red flag was flying, but I’m a fish and a rebel, okay? I screamed like a girl, standing waist deep in the salty waves, while three-metre-high waves crashed down on my head. If I was lucky, I would dive through the waves and end up unscathed ready for the next onslaught. If I timed it wrongly, the waves would pick me up, throw me down, drag me under, fill my mouth and ears with saltwater, swirl me around, hold me under for three or four seconds before releasing me. Wow, that was a thrill! I enjoyed the release of letting go, letting the sea do as it wished. My pulse was racing and my adrenaline pumped. I felt high!

The sea in Ibiza was more soothing for me, the Mediterranean being a lot more calm and forgiving than the Atlantic. I enjoyed swimming out about thirty metres and just relaxing on the waves, lying full-stretched on my back, gazing at the sky and allowing the sea to rock me. The control freak in me didn’t always enjoy it. I could hear her nagging, “But what if you get dragged onto the rocks?” . I allowed her voice to continue, but she got quieter and quieter until I looked forward to the sea just holding me, supporting me, comforting me. Letting go is bliss.

I have been asked what makes me beautifully different? What do I do that lights people up? Well, I guess I laugh a lot. People always compliment me on my laugh. It’s a great big giggle and rather childish. I’m told it’s infectious. And I laugh easily. Don’t ever test the quality of your jokes on me; I laugh anyway! I love to laugh; I love to be silly in order that I might laugh. It’s probably why I love to work with children. They’re hilarious!

I’m also blessed with an open heart. I love people and thanks to all the love and care I’ve received in my life, I find it easy to love others. Love is the most beautiful transaction, and like His Holiness the Dalai Lama said:

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

Where there is darkness, let me bring light.

The wisest choices I made this year were about getting rid of the unnecessary. Getting rid of relationships that weren’t working, getting rid of stuff, and getting rid of the fear and attachment that went with each of those.

The more I have gotten rid of, the more clearly I can see what I do have. And these treasured gifts are not really possessions, they are the gifts of conscientiousness, love, friendship, spirit and generosity. In these I am rich beyond my wildest dreams, and in these I invest my future. One action I would like to take in 2010 is to start a charity. This charity will be called The Magic If Foundation because asking ‘What if..?” can be the single most important and life-changing question we ever ask. What we can imagine, we can create. I want to help others imagine more, dream more wildly, give expression to their thoughts and feelings, and make ideas come to life.

One way I could do this practically is in running free improvisation and story-telling workshops with children. I have to thank the children I tutor for bringing my great love of the imagination and the idea of a charity to the surface.

I watched an amazing documentary on Palestine recently called “Arna’s Children”. Two Israeli volunteers help children put on performances and plays. You see a young child acting their heart out in a play, and then the film-crew return five years later to find many of the young male actors have become ‘martyrs’, and killed themselves on suicide missions against Israel. This saddened and inspired me. I am so grateful I had a happy childhood, and that I didn’t hear bombs at night, or suffer constant nightmares, or see my family’s home destroyed, or consider throwing stones at people my favourite game.

I believe we can help children like this imagine a future different from blowing themselves up.

The lesson that has been the most valuable to me this year is that compassionate thoughts and kind actions can change your reality. My mum suffers with mental illness and in the past, I have not always been kind to her when she is suffering. This time, thanks to learning the practises of compassion meditation, and mindful awareness of my thoughts, I have been able to help my mother much more usefully, and with much more generosity of spirit than ever before. I will be eternally grateful to Didier Danthois and Sogyal Rinpoche for these techniques.

This process was not only good for my mum, it was good for me. I have found it extremely healing. I’m not so angry as I used to be. It feels good to let some of that anger go.

What did I avoid this year? Ooh, that’s a tough question. That requires me to be totally honest. Well, I have avoided marketing my book Free Degrees. I think it’s laziness. I have letters ready to print and send to schools, but didn’t make the time to do that. I hope in 2011 that creating The Magic If Foundation will inspire me on my journey to promote using the imagination as a life-changing force. I want to let more students know, especially now that the government have put tuition fees up, that they can raise £25,000 for university and not get into debt. I just need to take action.

I have also managed to avoid letting strong feelings run my thoughts, actions (and my mouth!) this year. Giving up drink has helped. I was horrified to realise this year that every one of my major relationships had started on nights when I had been drinking. Now I want to build a relationship on a solid foundation, to take my time getting to know someone, and not give my heart and body away so easily. Next time it has to be a soul thing.

My advice to myself for 2011 is to not look back, to dream as big as possible, to slow down and love each moment, to relish the abundance of life, to take time out to achieve clarity and to consult the heart and soul when making decisions.

People I would like to thank:

  • My mum, for her love and generosity, and for helping me heal through compassion
  • Didier Danthois, for being a loving, inspirational and life-changing spiritual teacher
  • Verity Pabla, for bringing purity, dreams and music back into my life, for being a great friend and for introducing me to ICE and so many cool people
  • Caroline, for her lessons in care, love and attention to the needs of others
  • Janice, for her inspiring and romantic wedding day, and for being as generous and fun a friend as anyone could wish for
  • Fay, my yoga teacher, for flexibility and for being a great person
  • The author Geshe Michael Roach, for the inspiration and wisdom of The Diamond Cutter
  • Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa for spiritual growth and nourishment
  • The children I work with, for being a vibrant source of energy and joy
  • And all my friends, family and colleagues for their love, dedication and fun times!

So I guess I should return to that question: what is of my word for 2011?

It’s Heart.

In 2011, let me above all else, follow my longing, and follow my heart, and let love flow in and freely between my heart and the hearts of the others in my world.

Wishing you all love, laughter, abundance and peace this Christmas and New Year.

Genius is outside the self

I have the answer to where my genius comes from.

This week, I have been taking part in a clowning workshop run by Peta Lily.

Our exercises often mean we have to make the audience laugh, and be funny.

Lately I was intrigued by Elizabeth Gilbert‘s theory that genius is not internal, but external, and a sort of muse that we can call upon. (See my recent blog Where do ideas come from? for more details.)

During clowning, I decided to test this theory for myself. In preparation for clowning, the actor should spend a minute being with themselves and getting themselves into the ‘clown state’. This is best described as getting simple-minded and seeing everything as endless potential for enthusiasm.

During this phase, I repeated my exercises to get into clown state, and also emptied my mind and invited genius to come.

The exercise went well. At the end, Peta asked us to high-five each other with the words, “You are a comedy genius!”. I was very aware that the comedy genius was not me, but a visiting muse who had graciously helped me channel the divine comedy.

Later on in the week, I repeated the invitation to genius. I wasn’t always successful or funny.

But what a difference it made to my state of mind! After an ‘unsuccessful’ exercise, I didn’t beat myself up. I wasn’t a failure. The genius just wasn’t up to scratch right at that moment.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s theory has helped me not to take failure personally, and not get too big-headed about my successes.

Why not invite the muse next time you need to get creative?

Tools for provoking the imagination – 2

A shortlist of creative thinking tools must include the work of Edward de Bono.

Dr Edward de Bono has written many books on productive thinking. He is responsible for coining the term ‘lateral thinking’.

Lateral thinking allows your creativity to sidestep the impossible, into new realms of potential. One if his best known lateral thinking tools is PO, the provocation operation. Using a PO statement, the group imagine a scenario which sparks off ideas. In this sense, PO is a bit like ‘suppose’.

For example, ‘PO cars have square wheels’ sparked off a discussion about how to make this happen. This led to ideas about a self-adjusting suspension, which were actually developed on modern 4x4s.

Using metaphors has long been recognised as incredibly creative. A metaphor compares something (e.g. a clock) to something which it is not (e.g. a ticking timebomb). In this instance, the metaphor gives the user a powerful sense of urgency.

Another important feature of metaphor is its ability to make the mind of the user active. In order to truly understand the connection, you must imagine it. This ability to engage allows the user to participate, and therefore can be very memorable.

Think of Shakespeare. His plays are full of incredible metaphors and imagery, and somehow his work is remembered 500 years after it was written.

As a metaphor exercise, try asking a question such as “In what way is our project like an elephant?”. The answers given will unlock different perspectives on the subject and spark new ideas.

The Personal Ideas Pad or PIP from The Accidental Creative is worksheet which actually guides you through the productive thinking process. Here you list your challenge, its main subjects, and use brainstorming to generate as many related words as you can. Lines connect these new words and this network will inspire new ideas.

The Creative Whack Pack from creativethink.com is another easy-to-use tool for productive thinking. This is available in a card version or as an iPhone app. You select a card at random which suggests a creative thinking strategy, for example ‘See The Obvious’ or ‘Take the Second Right Answer’. Although a quick hit and a bit like using Tarot cards, they are another effective way to see a problem in a new light.

Like all productive thinking sessions, any negative statements, criticism, or the fact that the idea might be impossible are best put aside for now. Critical thinking has its place, but not during imaginative playtime for the mind. During these phases you want to leapfrog obstacles into new ideas. Being negative or analysing will close doors too early and prevent excitement from building. So let these sessions be free and enforce a strict ‘positive only’ rule.

There’s nothing worse to a creative than feeling stuck. Try these tools next time it happens. Your mind will enjoy being playful, and can quickly become a fertile soil on which to grow new ideas.

Rekindle the passion in your art

Are you looking for a way to rekindle the passion in your art?

Stephen Nachmanovitch, author of “Freeplay”, points out in an Accidental Creative podcast that the sequel to a blockbuster movie is often not as fun as the original. There are different energies going into it. This can be true, when commercial potential comes before love. You have to find a way to balance making money with loving what you do.

However, this does not necessarily mean constantly seeking out the ‘next best thing’. We must be careful not to be obsessed with only the new. Newness has an appeal, but this is novelty, and soon wears off. We must learn to look deeper into the familiar, into the very essence of things.

Most of us keep a wishlist, in which we write what we would like to buy. Do any of us keep an ‘I already have list’, a list of things we we already own, and are grateful for? Try doing this as an exercise. I guarantee you’ll will remember fondly the prior love you felt for a object or undertaking.

Sometimes, we need to take time out to rediscover our inspiration. Sometimes this means approaching your work from a different angle. Sometimes this means incorporating a new element.

After feeling stuck with theatre after ten years, I finally read a book I had put off reading for years: “Impro” by Keith Johnstone. In this book, I fell in love with theatre again. I remembered the fun I used to have in youth theatre, playing improvisational games. I hadn’t played these games for years, yet they were the main reason I loved acting. I checked Keith Johnstone out online and was thrilled to see he still ran workshops. I went along in 1997 as a participant and haven’t looked back since. Improvisation is now a major part of my life and, for me, has put the playfulness back into work.

Just like a relationship, we must continually rekindle an old love in order to have a long, happy life together.